I get this question weekly.
Which bit is the best one to start my young horse or pony with? Why?
I wrote a blog called Which Bit is Best which you can find here: https://chimacumtack.com/blog/2018/02/27/which-bit-is-best/ In this blog I talk about what a few of the mouth piece styles actually do when they are working inside the horse’s mouth, and when you put pressure on the lines. So if you are curious about that, take a look at that blog.
I won’t reiterate what I shared there, but will talk about what style of mouth piece and which cheek may work best for young/green horses or ponies.
I have found that the quieter the bit, the quieter the young/green horse or pony’s mouth will be. The more pieces that a bit has, the busier the bit is and this can lead to the horse or pony wanting to move and chew and focus on the bit. All that movement can make it difficult to communicate with the horse or pony as they can easily be focused on their mouth. For this reason, I do not suggest using a single joint, a french link or a roller mouth style bit as your starter bit. Instead, I try to steer people to the mullen mouth style or an arch mouth. Both of these are single mouth pieces. This will give your young or green animal a chance to move the bit around without getting too focused on it. This seems to be especially important for those super sensitive equines.
Which cheek piece?
Here is a blog I wrote about the baucher cheek versus the half cheek and why a pony may prefer one over the other: https://chimacumtack.com/blog/2020/06/30/tuesday-tip-bit-cheeks/
When starting a young or green driving horse I usually suggest using either the half cheek or the baucher. These two are appropriate for learning horses and ponies.
Other cheeks are the butterfly cheek, which is NEVER suggested for a single driving horse. The loops are too big and can easily get caught on the end of the shaft tips which could result in a horrible accident. So, if your horse or pony needs a bit of leverage then we suggest a liverpool style cheek. This would allow you to use a curb chain and use the slots lower on the cheek.
When should I progress my horse or pony to a more severe bit?
My answer is always, “It’s totally up to the horse or pony.” If your equine is happy in the starter, mullen mouth bit then I see no issue with keeping them in that mouth piece.
I do not show so I’m not aware of the different biting rules for the different classes. I would love it if someone would reach out and give me some information about those, so we can put together a blog post for those that show. I’m sure there are rules about which cheeks you can have in different classes, which may mean your horse or pony will need to be comfortable in a few different styles of cheek. As long as the mouth piece is not severe, such as a bike chain mouth piece, I wouldn’t think there would be too many rules about what you can use in the show ring, mullen mouth versus french link for example.
There are times when your equine will show you they are no longer happy in their current bit. Here is a blog post I wrote about how to choose a bit for your horse or pony, that is showing you some signs of being uncomfortable: https://chimacumtack.com/blog/2019/11/27/how-do-i-choose-a-bit-for-my-horse/